In the parable in Matthew 21: 23-32, we hear the story of a landowner who asks his two sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son says “no,” but then does it anyway. The second son says “yes,” but then doesn’t go. When Jesus asks the chief priests and elders which son has done the father’s will, of course, they respond that the first son did the father’s will.
By their answer, we see that the religious leaders value action over words. But this son also changed his mind. John Shea, in On Earth as it is in Heaven, points out that, “If the religious leaders endorse doing over saying, they also have to endorse the change of mind that brought the first son to obedient action. It is this ability to change one’s mind that Jesus wants to emphasize. Both John the Baptist and Jesus have stressed that metanoia – a change of mind – is needed to enter the kingdom of God. ”
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Metanoia is a change in one’s life resulting from a significant spiritual encounter or experience
As Joan Chittester reminds us, metanoia isn’t simply about changing our mind, we do that all the time about all kinds of things in our lives. Metanoia is much deeper than that. It is an interior changing of the way we look at life. It changes us from those egotistical, judgmental, power hunger, authority wielding religious leaders to humble, compassionate, we’re-all-in-this-together people. We remember that we are not the center of the universe. We are a work in progress, as is everyone else, and we begin listen for God’s voice and to look for what God has to teach us everywhere and in everyone.
Einstein once said, “Everything has changed but our thinking.” The mind clings to “we’ve never done it that way” or “that’s not what I was told,” or it holds onto past moments or information. The mind doesn’t like to ride the new that is happening. But the only way to enter into life – aka the kingdom of heaven, enlightenment, or a higher level of consciousness – is to embrace a new way of thinking and being.
Walter Kania, in his book Healthy Religion, suggests that metanoia, true, deep, inner change, is required for spiritual growth and it can be seen when a person:
- Moves into a state of compassion, love, and kindness
- Is released from fear
- Becomes nonjudgmental
- Loses the need to control or change others
- Becomes independent of the good opinion of other people
- Becomes inner rather than outer-directed
- Loves and accepts others without conditions
- Is open to change
- Is willing to learn and grow
- Is open to the truth and experience of others
- Is at peace with themselves
- No longer needs the approval of others
- Has abandoned the ego
- Lives at a higher level of consciousness.
Here is an amusing story from the Sufis:
There was a case against Mulla Nasruddin in the court, and the judge asked him, “How old are you, Nasruddin?”
And he said, “Of course, you know and everybody knows I am forty years old.”
The judge was surprised, “But five years ago, you were also in this court. When I asked you then how old you were you said forty. How is this possible? After five years you are still forty.”
Nasruddin said, “I am a consistent man, sir. Once I say I am forty, I will remain forty forever. You can rely on me.”
In her book, The Heart of Waiting, Sue Monk Kidd says, “When change-winds swirl through our lives… they often call us to undertake a new passage of the spiritual journey… I should have remembered that the life of the spirit is never static. We’re born on one level, only to find some new struggle toward wholeness gestating within. That’s the sacred intent of life, of God – to move us continuously toward growth…”
We cannot grow spiritually without changing our minds, without entertaining new thoughts, without opening the window and letting in fresh air.
Love & Light!